MUNCIE, Ind. – The Ball State baseball team claimed the series victory over preseason Mid-American Conference West Division favorite Western Michigan as the Cardinals knocked off the Broncos 11-7 Sunday afternoon at Ball Diamond. The victory improves the Cardinals to 19-18 overall on the season and 8-8 in MAC play as they maintain sole possession of second place in the MAC West Division.
Dual-threat sophomore right-hander/designated hitter Kolbrin Vitek (Bryan, Ohio/Bryan) continued his strong play as he threw 7.0 strong innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters to improve to 3-2 on the season. Vitek also did damage at the plate as he tallied his team-leading 10th home run of the season and recorded his MAC-leading 22nd double of the year. He only trails the Ball State single-season doubles record by three as Brad Snyder hit 25 doubles in 2003.
Western Michigan (11-26, 6-12 MAC) opened the scoring in the top of the first inning against Vitek as Kyle Galbraith doubled to left center field to lead off the game. Grant Simotes drove in Galbraith with a single to left field to put WMU ahead 1-0. Vitek was able to work out of the inning as he picked Simotes off first base and recorded two infield pop flies.
Ball State took the lead quickly in the bottom half of the inning as it chased WMU starter Eric Heckaman from the game. Junior center fielder Jeremy Hazelbaker (Selma, Ind./Wapahani) quickly tied the game as he ripped a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall for his sixth home run of the season. Senior second baseman Nate Fields (Cincinnati, Ohio/Anderson) kept things going with a single to center field and came home to score as Vitek crushed a 1-1 pitch high over the left field wall to put the Cardinals up 3-1 and chase Heckaman from the game.
The Broncos tied the game with two runs in the third inning as Galbraith and Chris Lewis hit solo home runs. Ball State re-took the lead in the bottom half of the inning as it plated three runs to take a 6-3 lead. Junior right fielder Ryan Chenoweth (Fort Wayne, Ind./Homestead) started the scoring with a one out solo home run over the right field wall.
Sophomore shortstop T.J. Baumet (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) kept the inning going with a single and freshman left fielder Cody Elliott (Florence, Ky./Beechwood) was hit by a pitch to put two aboard. Freshman third baseman Tim Issler (Cincinnati, Ohio/St. Xavier) drove in Baumet with a single to center field and Hazelbaker scored Elliott with a single up the middle to cap the inning.
Western Michigan battled back and tied the game with third runs in the fourth as Brent Gerlach hit a three-run home run. The Broncos took the lead with a run in the fifth inning as Lewis hit his second home run of the afternoon to give WMU a 7-6 lead.
Ball State quickly tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning as Baumet led off the inning with his seventh home run of the season on the first pitch of the inning. The Cardinals took back the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh inning against WMU reliever Tim Mowry.
Elliott gave the Cardinals the lead as he opened the inning with a solo home run to right center field for his first career collegiate long ball. After two outs, Fields walked and came home to score on Vitek’s double and a throwing error by WMU. Freshman first baseman Ian Nielsen (La Porte, Ind./La Porte) drove in an important insurance run as he singled up the middle to plate Vitek. Junior catcher Zach Dygert (Angola, Ind./Angola) drove in Nielsen as he dropped a double down the right field line to give the Cardinals an 11-7 lead.
The Cardinals’ bullpen slammed the door shut as Aaron Hammons (Greenfield, Ind./Greenfield Central) pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Senior left-hander Tom Mueller (Westfield, Ind./Westfield) tossed two-thirds of an inning and junior closer Morgan Coombs (West Terre Haute, Ind./Lincoln Trail) came on for the final out as he induced a lazy fly ball to center field for his fifth save of the season.
Heckaman allowed three runs on five hits as he did not record an out in the no decision. Mowry (2-1) was charged with the loss as he allowed four runs on four hits in 3.0 innings of work.
Ball State has now won 11 out of the last 15 meetings between the two divisional rivals. Head coach Greg Beals is 14-4 all-time against Western Michigan in his seven seasons at the helm of the Cardinals.
The Cardinals return to action Tuesday afternoon as they host Big Ten foe Purdue at 3 p.m. at Ball Diamond. Tuesday’s game will mark the second meeting between the instate schools with Ball State claiming a 17-8 victory earlier this season in West Lafayette.